CV Writing – Part 2 of 2

In the previous article we focused on what not to do in a CV, which in many ways should give you an idea as to what to do. However, to ensure that there are no incorrect assumptions around this, here’s my list of key points that should be noted when compiling or updating your CV.

  1. Cover Letter – While this is something that I generally despise, it is required by many recruitment agencies before they will even consider your application. So keep it brief but focused on your qualifications and experience relative to that specific position that you’re applying for. A generic cover letter will probably not do justice to your CV, so as painful or tedious as it may be, review your cover letter for each application to make sure that you draw their attention to those qualities of yours that you believe makes you the best candidate for the job.
  2. Chronology of Experience – Many people get this wrong by placing it in ascending order sorted by date from their first position to their current position. The preferred order should be for your latest position first, since that would be most relevant to the job being applied for, and then working backwards to the beginning of your career. This makes it easy for the recruiting manager to be exposed to your current level of expertise without losing interest after browsing through potentially irrelevant roles that you may have filled in the past.
  3. Summary of Employment – When you find that you’ve got quite a lengthy and colourful career behind you, you may want to reduce the earlier roles to just a summary table rather than going into detail about that cashier’s job you did when you were trying to get through university almost 15 or 20 years ago. Remember to keep it relevant, so not every part time role you filled needs to be explained in detail in your CV. This table would therefore include just the name of the company, your job title, start and end dates of employment, and possibly reasons for leaving, if that may add value. Otherwise leave it out and rather discuss it in the interview instead, if the need arises.
  4. Training History – Another area of pain, too many people include every internal training course that they attended. If that training is specifically relevant to the position being applied for, and that position is internal to the company you’re at, then include it. However, if it is an application for a position at another company that does not use those systems, then either remove it, or position it relative to the skills that were acquired that could be applied in your new role. I prefer to keep the training list limited to just industry recognised courses or certifications with a footnote summarising the type of additional training that may have been received over the years.
  5. Proficiency Table – Another useful but often abused piece of information is a table that indicates your level of proficiency in various standard business applications, platforms, or skills that may be relevant to your career path. This should ideally indicate the name of the application or skill, the amount of years of exposure, the level of expertise (e.g. Basic, Intermediate, Advanced, Specialist, Expert, etc.), and when last used. Include the version of the application or tool if necessary. This table can be a combination of both skills and business systems or applications, but once again, relevant to the position being applied for. You don’t want to bother a recruiting manager for a professional role with your qualification as a hairdresser or dance instructor, if you know what I mean?
  6. Readability and Layout – This is something that I emphasised much in the previous article and I need to emphasise it again. When compiling your CV, remember that it is usually intended to be read by someone that does not know you, and that is probably wading through stacks of CV’s from people applying for the same job. A professionally written CV using business language and not slang or unnecessary techno jargon is what will appeal to a seasoned manager. Do not assume an overly familiar tone in your writing. Don’t try to be hip and cool. Keep it structured and relevant.
  7. Business versus Technical – One thing that works well for me, especially when applying for management level positions, is to separate the job outputs into Business Deliverables versus Technical Deliverables. If you get this right, it will demonstrate a clear understanding on your part relative to what the business value is of the role you’re fulfilling versus what the technical or commodity skill is that you’re bringing to the table.
  8. Title Page – Last but not least, ensure that your title page is professional and not corny. If you intend to include any graphics, please, for the love of all things sacred, do not use cheesy clip art from MS Office. It may seem cute to some, but you’re not trying to be cute. You’re trying to present a professional image of what you have to offer. So look at some of the standard Title Page templates in MS Word for ideas if you’re not creatively inclined. If you intend to use a photo, make sure it’s not a photo that belongs on a social networking site like Facebook or Twitter. Use one that looks professional but not creepy. So as a rule of thumb, if it looks like it belongs on Police Files, or in your passport, it’s a no-no as well. Consider how you want to be perceived, and then truthfully reflect that in a recent photo that represents that image. If you thought you looked really attractive in a photo that was taken 5 or 10 years ago, but it doesn’t quite reflect your current state, don’t use it. You’ll only set yourself up for internalised ridicule when you walk into the interview room looking nothing like the image that you portrayed in your CV, which will give the impression of dishonesty and being out of touch with reality.

I hope that helps in your search for that ideal position that will bring out the best in you. And if it does help you to land that ideal job, remember us little folk when you make it big. Good luck!

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